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Death certificates and commemorative plaques aren't something you'd normally associate with a glacier. But that is exactly how Iceland recently mourned the loss of 700-year-old Okjökull, the first of its major glaciers to die.
This is just one early example of events we will encounter more and more often as the hot new world we are creating slowly destroys ecosystems and livelihoods. But acknowledging the growing emotional trauma and grief felt at present and future environmental tragedies may yet be the kick we need to limit their reach.
Grief - Logic - Sadness - Loss - Sadness
Grief radically differs in its logic from ordinary sadness over a loss. If sadness is the response to the removal of an object from the tablecloth that represents a person's lived world, grief results from loss that tears the very fabric of that cloth. In order to repair this hole and emerge from the resulting pain and outrage, the lived world has to be reconfigured.
To grieve though, one must acknowledge the tear in that world. This can take time, and denial is a common part of the process of accepting deep loss. This may at first take the form of a temptation toward out-and-out disbelief, and linger as sporadic thoughts and hopes that what was lost, wasn't.
Reaction - Defence - Mechanism - Loss - World
It may seem an irrational reaction, but it's a completely understandable defence mechanism against life-shattering loss. The world without what's been lost is so radically and qualitatively different that the psyche resists accepting reality.
While much climate denial owes itself to corruption and vested interests, the avoidance of grief may explain why many decent and intelligent people are also tempted to deny the climatic breakdown humans are causing.
Sense - Climate - Scale - Speed - Change
It is, in a certain sense, unimaginable, even absurd, to think of us destabilising our very climate, or the scale and speed of change required to stop the slide. It isn't surprising...
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